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Google TV vs Android TV: What’s Different? [FAQ]

A content-focussed interface!

by: - Last updated on: October 2nd, 2020

At its ‘Launch Night In’ event yesterday, Google made a bunch of product announcements. These include the all-new Pixel 5, Pixel 4a 5G, Nest Smart Speaker, and a new Chromecast with Google TV. Aside from Pixel 5, which was obviously one of the biggest highlights of the show, the other announcement that is causing some stir (and also appears to be creating some confusion) is about Google TV — a new software experience that aims to make content browsing and discovery more accessible and convenient. So, to help clear the confusion here’s all you need to know about Google TV.

Google TV

What is Google TV?

To give you some background, Google TV was introduced back in 2011 as an online video-on-demand service from Google as part of its Google Play product line. The service was essentially a one-stop-shop for various TV shows and movies, which users could either rent or purchase right on the platform, depending on its availability. But unfortunately, Google TV could not manage to garner as much attention as Google would have liked, and as a reason, over the years, it went through several identity changes. Finally, it was at the Google I/O 2014, when the company officially announced Android TV — a replacement for Google TV, that marked the end of Google TV.

Google TV vs Android TV

Android TV has, since then, been accepted as the middleware by various television companies. And the Android TV-powered set-top boxes have also increasingly started getting the attention of many television providers. However, when stacked against some of the popular streaming platforms like Fire TV and Roku, Android TV lacks the recommendation and content browsing and discovery functionality offered by its competitors.

As a result, its popularity started plummeting in recent years, with consumers preferring other platforms for streaming content. While, on the other hand, Google did manage to popularize the Chromecast, which was (and still is) well-received from consumers across the globe, and it became one of the most popular devices for the company, in an ocean of overpouring content from various streaming platforms, the lack of better content discovery and personalized recommendation did hamper the overall experience on the device.

Android TV

It is this lack of content discovery and personalized recommendations that prompted Google to introduce a new entertainment experience in 2020. And the all-new Google TV does just that — in the form of a new interface. Yes, Google TV is a user interface (UI) built on Android TV — and not an operating system.

Is Google TV available only for Google products?

Google TV is currently limited to the new Chromecast, but Google says it will bring the Google TV experience to more devices in the Android TV ecosystem soon, even those made by third-party OEM partners like Sony.

How is Google TV different from Android TV?

The new Google TV experience brings together all the content: TV shows, movies, and live TV, from all your different subscription services and organizes them categorically in one place. To do this effectivity, Google says it has made improvements to its Knowlege Graph — a knowledge base that comprises of a plethora of information gathered from various sources that Google uses for its services to enhance or improve them. In the case of Google TV, it is leveraging the data from Knowledge Graph to improve content organization and offer more relevant recommendations to the users.

Google TV vs Android TV

Furthermore, to help users keep track of the content, the platform comes with a watchlist functionality, which makes it easier to bookmark shows and movies to revisit later. Talking it a step further, the service also allows users to add items to the watchlist from any device, which reflects on their TV back at home.

In a nutshell, compared to the previous offering, Google TV brings along the following essential changes:

1. A For You tab that offers recommendations for TV shows and movies from different services that a user has subscribed to.
2. A Live Tab that essentially integrates streaming content with live TV content from YouTube TV, currently, and other services soon.
3. A Watchlist tab that makes it easier for users to bookmark items from any of their devices.

Besides TV shows and movies, live TV is another element in the streaming space that is seeing a lot of traction lately. To deal with this and to cater to the needs of consumers, Google is now making it easier for users to switch between streaming and live content by offering recommendations for both in one place. When it goes live, the platform will offer live integration with YouTube in the US.

Google TV live TV integration

Apart from content, with Google TV, users also get access to Google’s search prowess, using which they can get weather updates, live scores, and answers to any of their queries. If there are connected devices at home, the same can be controlled with voice, using the Google Assistant. What’s more, since Google TV is basically a UI skin based on Android TV, it is compatible with over 6500 apps built for Android TV, spread across different categories.

To sum it up, with Google TV, you get all the functionalities from Android TV with an increased focus on content with its content-focused UI. Google TV will be available first on the new Chromecast, priced at $49.99. And, moving forward, it will roll out to televisions from Sony and other Android TV OS platforms. Moreover, starting today, the new TV experience will also be available for mobile devices in the US via the new Google TV app on the Play Store, which is essentially an update to the Google Play Movies & TV app.

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